Friday, October 28, 2016

Something More

By Sr. Meg Kymes

Last month I began a journey with 20 middle school students.  My principal asked me to be the formator for our Vincentian Marian Youth group.  Vincentian Marian Youth is an international branch of the Vincentian Family that traces its roots back to St. Catherine Laboure’s creation of the Children of Mary.  These young people dedicate themselves to prayer and service as well as study of the Vincentian charism and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Today it has around 200,000 members in 40 countries around the world.

In our little town of Emmitsburg, our students were aware of the history, but didn’t realize what they were a part of.  They could tell the stories of St. Vincent dePaul and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton or even St. Catherine Laboure, but they did not know today’s story of their legacy.  They didn’t realize they were now part of a larger Vincentian Family that included priests, sisters, and lay people of all ages and races.  I felt called to open their eyes to how wide this family spread.  I wanted them to get a chance to glimpse inside the Motherhouse in Paris or a rural village in the Congo. 

As I spoke to the students about our road map along this journey I saw a few eyes widen in surprise and even a few nods.  I could tell this was going to be the start of an amazing journey.  Stay tuned!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Three Things I Learned In Three Months of Novitiate

By Sr. Romina Sapinoso

It’s been three months since I started novitiate with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati. This is HUGE. Novitiate is the stuff many sisters get lots of their stories from. You know, the stories they don’t tire of telling each other and us, younger ones. I personally love listening to sisters in the community share how their novitiates compared to mine, or more precisely, how DIFFERENT their novitiates were compared to mine. I’m pretty sure that all sisters, old and young alike, agree that it’s a good thing the novitiate has evolved. After all, most of our sisters entered in circa 19??. In keeping up with the changing times, it is but natural that we would have a new and updated Novitiate 3.0, 2016 version. The way I see it, the operating systems have been significantly upgraded while striving to keep the essentials of formation in tact. These last three months in the “nunnery” have given me the opportunity to engage in dialogue and learn much valuable information, build many new relationships, be amazed and wowed by the lives of the sisters, and last but definitely not least, share many good laughs with these wonderful women of God. Though my experiences so far probably don’t hold a candle to the stories that were shared with me (and don’t yet elicit as many fond memories and laughter), they definitely have blessed me with a special appreciation for this time. So here are the top three things I have come to embrace in three months of novitiate:

1.   Doubt and questions about what in the heck you are doing here are okay. I love the stories of doubt and later clarity in their own discernment that sisters impart with me. One of my favorites is from Sister Annina, 100-year old wisdom figure to me and to many others in the community. I once asked her during my retreat that she directed if she ever thought about leaving religious life. She said, “Every single night of my novitiate.” She wasn’t kidding. She did pack her trunk every single night, ready to leave the next day. One of the other sisters in her band always asked her to stay “just one more night.” Annina ends the story with a huge bright smile and sparkling eyes as she says the words, “And here I am, 83 years later, still a Sister of Charity!” I would certainly add, “And a most inspiring and delightful one at that!”
With Sister Annina Morgan

2.   Go back to basics. On a particularly discomforting week of discernment, I spewed out my doubts and fears, uncertainties and questions on my discernment journey to my spiritual director. Wise as he is, he told me to picture a kite. Everybody experiences some amount of delight when they see a kite soaring mightily against a clear, blue sky. His point was, we rarely notice that this kite, in order to not be ravaged and blown away by unpredictable winds, is firmly tethered to the ground by an almost invisible string. He asked me, “What is your string? What keeps you afloat yet firmly anchored to solid ground? When you know your foundation, all other questions become secondary.” This suggestion from him moved me to look back at how my journey got me to this present time and place. It made me look carefully at the bigger questions and not be bogged down with the little ones, always trusting and opening to the movement of the Spirit within. I went searching again for reminders of what he referred to as my foundation. And lo and behold, surprise, surprise, it’s God.

3.   You can and should ask the difficult questions about a religious vocation. That’s part of a healthy discernment! Early on, I’ve made a commitment to be genuine and honest in this discernment process, to ask questions and seek out the community’s and my own answers to them, with the guidance of the Spirit.  And you know what? The sisters have too! I am blessed to be journeying with folks who, though not perfect, are real and realistic. Sisters are human and embrace their humanity. This makes them way cooler than I ever expected. Seriously though, I can be confident that they do not give me answers that will sound good but those which they know will help me see the lived reality of religious life to better inform my process. Words cannot say how grateful I am to be on this path with such awesomeness (sisters).

The Bayley House Novitiate Community

I’m ONLY a quarter of the way into my canonical year. Or I can also say, I’m ALREADY a quarter of the way into my canonical year. In any case, it has been just a remarkable pilgrimage so far. I can say with certainty that this time has truly been and continues to be a gift for me. I am assured that God knows the desires of my heart and I myself, am being made aware of them during this period of genuine discernment. Wherever the road leads, it is my sincere hope that I can look back at this year and say, we (myself, the community, and God) held fast to the truth of this journey together.

Friday, October 14, 2016

SOA Watch Border Convergence

Last weekend (Oct. 7-9), three members of the Future of Charity group gathered with hundreds of activists along the U.S./Mexico border wall in Nogales to protest the unjust treatment of immigrants and refuges.  Andrea Koverman, SC; Tracy Kemme, SC; and Whitney Schieltz, an Affiliate with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati living in El Paso, TX; first joined the weekend-long protest for a rally and vigil outside Eloy Detention Center, located about halfway between Tucson and Phoenix.

The families of men and women in detention share their families' stories and
ask the crowd for support in getting their loved ones released.

Sister Andrea holds a candle at the vigil outside Eloy Detention Center.

On Saturday, they crossed the border to spend the day at various events in Mexico.  The day was full of powerful moments as crowds gathered on both sides of the wall for rallies, prayer services, and concerts.

Artwork adds life to the border wall in Nogales, Mexico.

Andrea, Tracy, and Whitney with a group of other women religious next to the border wall.

Whitney (second from right) and Sister Tracy (far right) look through the massive border wall.

Later in the day, the Future of Charity members met with other women religious at a soup kitchen near the border in Mexico for an Encuentro de Hermanas, an event put on by Giving Voice, an organization for women religious under age 50.  This time together allowed the individuals to share why the issue of immigration is close to their heart and to brainstorm ideas for how to respond to the growing need.

The women religious gathered for the Encuentro de Hermanas at the Kino Border Initiative
Soup Kitchen pose for a group photo below a modernized mural of the Last Supper.

Sunday morning, Andrea, Tracy, and Whitney made one last stop at the wall before heading home.  This time, however, they stayed on the U.S. side for one final protest and concert.  Although the weekend went by quickly, it was a clear reminder of the harsh reality that waits for so many seeking a better life.

For more information on the SOA Watch Border Convergence:

For more information about Giving Voice:

For more information on the Encuentro de Hermanas:

For more information on the Kino Border Initiative:

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Future of Religious Life

As our name--Future of Charity--suggests, we spend a lot of time pondering and discussing the future of the Sisters of Charity Federation and religious life in general.  As recently vowed members and women in formation with religious congregations, we know that challenges lie ahead of us; but we also have great hope in what the future holds.  We asked our bloggers: What are you most excited for as you envision the future of religious life?  

Here's what they said...

Creative freedom in ministry, new collaborations and deeper understanding of our interconnectedness; living into new meanings of the vows in the evolving church and world.
- Melissa Camardo

I'm most excited for building relationships with peers of my generation both within the U.S., and across borders.
- Laura Coughlin

The collaboration between communities is exciting to me in religious life and collaboration with laypeople when it comes to living in community.
- Rejane Cytacki

What am I most excited about in the future of religious life is meeting new people and developing relationships as well as deepening my friendships with the ones I already know. I am excited about the personal & spiritual growth I am experiencing.  
- Judy Donohue

I am most excited about the inter-nationality of our future.  The cultural diversity and cross-cultural dimensions of our communities are inviting us to think and act in much broader ways. This richness is exciting to me!
- Marie Flowers

I am excited about the newness and creative ways that religious life can grow and develop as we move with the signs of the time.  
- Carlette Gentle

As I envision the future of religious life, I am most excited about the radical endeavors we may be able to undertake through collaboration!  Some may think that the religious life is dying because numbers are declining, but small can be powerful!
- Tracy Kemme

As I envision the future of religious life, I am excited about collaborating across congregations.  Each community has such richness to offer—what a joy it will be to taste a diversity of charisms.
- Annie Klapheke

I am most excited about the ways I see people waking up to the injustices that have been a part of our culture's collective unchallenged assumptions and the ways that women religious are being called to take a prophetic role in addressing them in response to deep prayerful contemplation. I love the energy, commitment and passion I find among women attracted to and joining contemporary religious life and am so grateful to have been called to this life myself!
- Andrea Koverman

I'm most excited about what the consecrated life will look like in the future.  I believe there will always be people dedicated to serving God in the church, but it may look different than it is today.  If it is God's will I will be there to see it!
- Meg Kymes

What I'm most excited about in the future of religious life is community, connections, and possibilities!
- Romina Sapinoso

I am excited to see how Pope Francis’s leadership is reigniting and refocusing the mission of the Church and inspiring new vocations in religious life and the laity; and I look forward to increased collaboration between these two groups on the forefront of social justice causes around the world.
- Whitney Schieltz

As I consider the future of religious life I am excited about the opportunities we'll have to collaborate in ministry and experience community living together across the Federation.
- Paris Slapikas